The Dalles is the largest community in the Mid Columbia River Gorge, and serves as the county seat of Wasco County. The Dalles was incorporated in 1857. The population of The Dalles in 2014 was 14,600. This is slightly half of population for Wasco County, which is 24,150. The elevation of The Dalles is listed at 102 feet, but it really depends on where you are standing because The Dalles rapidly expands into the surrounding hillsides to the south.
The town has a lengthy history. While it was founded in 1857, and is the fourth oldest city in Oregon, the area has been used as a place of trading and rendezvous by Native American tribes from all over the Pacific Northwest for over 10,000 years, making this area one of the oldest inhabited areas in the Western Hemisphere.
Museums and Landmarks
The Dalles has several notable museums and landmarks.
- Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum
- Fort Dalles Museum and Anderson Homestead
- National Neon Sign Museum
- Original Wasco County Courthouse
- The Dalles Fire Museum
- Columbia Gorge Veterans Museum
With two historic districts, Trevitt Addition Historic District and The Dalles Historic Commercial District, The Dalles has over 70 buildings and sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Dalles Murals
Visitors to The Dalles can enjoy over 16 murals on local buildings in the downtown area, which depict historic events in The Dalles and the surrounding area. The Dalles Murals are sponsored by The Dalles Mural Society and The Dalles Main Street.
The Dalles is participating in the Sister City program with Ikeda, Japan.
Principle industries in The Dalles and Wasco County are agriculture (wheat, cherries), manufacturing, processing, and tourism. Wasco County is the state’s biggest producer of sweet cherries, ranks 5th in wheat production and ranks 14th for gross farm and ranch sales in Oregon at $107.9 million dollars.
The largest employer in The Dalles is Mid-Coumbia Medical Center (MCMC) which operates the Celilo Center, a regional cancer treatment facility.
|Cherries and wheat are primary agricultural products grown in the area around The Dalles.|
The second largest employer in the community is Oregon Cherry Growers, the world’s premier processor of maraschino cherries and related products that include: fresh cherries, maraschino cherries, glace’ and freezer cherries, canned cherries, ingredient cherries for the ice cream and dairy industry, and a line of dried fruit products. If you’ve ever eaten Ben & Jerry’s “Cherry Garcia” ice cream, you may have eaten a cherry that was harvested here in The Dalles. There are many cherry orchards on the hills south of The Dalles just beyond the ridge. Cherries bloom in April and harvest begins in June.
Mid Columbia Producers handles much of the wheat that is exported from regional growers. Wasco County is one of the top producers of wheat, including soft white wheat, and hard red winter wheat. The dryland growing conditions create a high quality product that is less prone to disease. Foreign countries like Japan and South Korea purchase 90 percent of Oregon’s wheat crop, valued at $300 million to $500 million.
Additional improvements include a public access underpass that connects the core downtown area with the Columbia River, allowing for tour boats to dock and the Riverfront Trail which will provides ten miles of uninterrupted hiking from The Dalles Dam to the Discovery Center at Crate’s Point.
The Dalles welcomed GOOGLE into the community during 2005-2006, as the search engine giant continues to build facilities at the Port of The Dalles. Google has been a good neighbor, and you will find the downtown area is wifi friendly, as well as public access wifi at Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum.
The Dalles is located on the south bank of the Columbia River and on the northeast flank of Mt. Hood.
Elevation: 102′ (depending on where you are standing).
Area: The Dalles: 20 sq. miles
Wasco County: 2,396 sq miles 10 persons/sq mile
Distance in miles from closest cities:
Hood River, OR – 21 miles
Portland, OR – 83 miles
Pendleton, OR – 120 miles
Seattle, WA – 260 miles
Spokane, WA – 261 miles
Boise, ID – 350 miles
Sacramento, CA – 667 miles
San Francisco, CA – 717 miles
Source: Oregon Department of Transportation, State of Oregon Map; Oregon Blue Book
Monthly Average: Low: 30° F Monthly Ave. High: 88° F
Temperature extremes can get below 0° F in winter, above 110° F in summer.
Hottest Month July Coldest Month January Driest Month July Wettest Month December
Average annual precipitation: 13.97″
Humidity (Hour 10, local time):
Average July afternoon humidity: 34% Average January afternoon humidity: 77%
Source: Oregon Climate Service
Economic and area Information
Visit the following sites:
The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce
Toll Free: 1-800-255-3385
Port of The Dalles
Columbia Gorge Economic Development Association
Mid-Columbia Economic Development District
Mid-Columbia Council of Governments
Wasco County Economic Development
History of The Dalles
The name The Dalles is derived from the French word dalle, meaning flagstone, and was applied to the narrows of the Columbia River, above the present city of The Dalles, by French-Canadian employees of the fur companies. Among other things, dalle meant a stone used to flag gutters, and the peculiar basalt formation along the narrows doubtless suggested gutters. The word dalles signified, to the voyageurs, the river rapids flowing swiftly through a narrow channel over flat, basaltic rocks.
The first known use of the name Dalles in Oregon is in Franchere’s Narrative, on Apr. 12, 1814, where it is used to describe the Long Narrows. Jon Work, in his journal of 1825, speaks of Dalls. The name La Grande Dalle de la Columbia became established.
Lewis and Clark referred in their journals to the rapids as: “in those narrows the water was agitated in a most Shocking manner boils Swell & whorl pools, we passed with great risque.”
Missionary Rev. Daniel Lee described the rapids as: “. …at the Dalles, the whole volume of the river, half a mile wide, rushes through a deep narrow channel, which the action of the water has formed in the course of ages, through an extended tract of the hardest basalt. A mile brings us to the head of the chasm, which, diminishing in breadth to this point, is here only from thirty to fifty yards broad…the Small Dalles, two miles further up… here the river passes through a very deep and narrow cut in the basalt rock, which rises some twenty or thirty feet above it’s surface. The water pours through this channel with great velocity… “
The original name of the community was Dalles City, but for many years the style in universal use has been The Dalles, this style being adopted not only for historical and sentimental reasons but also to avoid duplication with Dallas, Oregon in Polk County.
On June 7, 1966, the name was changed by ordinance to the City of The Dalles to conform to current usage. The post office was established with the name Dalles on Nov. 5, 1851, with William R. Gibson first postmaster. On Sept. 3, 1853, the name was changed to Wascopum, and on Mar. 22, 1860, it was changed to The Dalles. The narrows of the river were generally known as The Dalles of the Columbia, and this collective term described the geographic features from the Big Eddy on the west to Celilo Falls on the east.
All these rapids were inudated in Mar. 1957 when The Dalles Dam was completed, forming Lake Celilo. Just east of Big Eddy was Fivemile Rapids, formerly known as the Long Narrows, The Dalles, or The Great Dalles. Further east was Tenmile Rapids, formerly known as the Short Narrows, Little Narrows or Les Petites Dalles.
In 1850, the US Government established Camp Drum, which became known as Fort Dalles. The last remaining building of the old fort, the Surgeon’s Quarters, was built in 1856. In 1905 the Old Fort Dalles Historical Society secured possession of the Surgeon’s quarters and opened it as a museum. The museum is operated as a joint effort between Wasco County and the City of The Dalles. The Fort Dalles Museum complex includes the Anderson Homestead. The gothic style architecture of the Surgeon’s Quarters was designed by German immigrant Louis Scholl.
The neighborhood of Mill Creek at The Dalles was called Quenett by the Indians, which was a word for salmon trout. Lewis and Clark camped at the mouth of this stream on Oct. 25, 26, and 27, 1805, and recorded the form Que-nett in their journals and maps. In Apr. 1806 they named this place “Rockfort camp.”
Dr. William C. McKay, in an article in The Dalles Mountaineer, May 28, 1869, gives the Indian names of a great many places in the vicinity of The Dalles. Dr. McKay says that long before the white men came, the Indians called the locality of what is now the city of The Dalles Win-quatt, signifying a place encircled by rock cliffs.
Fort Dalles was a regular military post used during various Indian disturbances from 1850 to 1866. It was situated on Mill Creek, in the west part of the community of The Dalles, and before it was abandoned, it had developed into a commodious post. Fort Lee was established at The Dalles in the fall of 1847 at the time of the Cayuse War, but it had nothing to do with Fort Dalles. In May of 1850 Colonel W.W. Loring, then stationed at Vancouver, sent two companies of the Mounted Rifles to The Dalles to establish a supply depot. Heitman, in the Historical Register, says the post was first called Camp Drum. This was apparently to commemorate Captain Simon Henry Drum, who was killed in the assault on the City of Mexico, Sept. 13, 1847. For information about Fort Dalles, see Illustrated History of Central Oregon, pp. 102-105. The first buildings were of logs, but some of them burned, and the post was reconstructed in 1856-57, rather elaborately. A Captain Thomas Jordan had charge of the new construction. There is no record of any fortifications or defenses, either before or after the reconstruction. The reservation at first very large, was finally reduced to 640 acres, with the northeast corner at the mouth of Mill Creek. Priscilla Knuth has an interesting and detailed account of the fort and its buildings in Picturesque Frontier, the Army’s Fort Dalles.
— Source: Oregon Geographic Names, Sixth Edition, 1992, Lewis L. McArthur, Oregon Historical Society Press, ISBN O-87595-237-2. For information about the rapids of The Dalles of the Columbia, see OHQ, v. 27, in the article by Henry J. Biddle entitled “Wishram.”